I love road trips! Long before I became editor of Budget Travel with its popular Road Trips series, I always loved packing up the car and heading... anywhere! From childhood trips to Martha's Vineyard to college weekends down the shore, for me the notion of "vacation" and "great drive" have pretty much been one and the same. When my wife and I lived in San Francisco, we fell hard for the stretch of highway between the City and San Simeon—the incredible road trip that took us through Santa Cruz, Monterey, and Big Sur.
These days, we live in New York's Hudson Valley (just outside New York City), and we are planning a trip out west—Billings, MT. I was pleased to discover an exciting new road trips tool right on the Budget Travel website: Destination Anywhere, sponsored by Firestone. Check it out: You can enter the start and end point of your "ultimate road trip" and a search engine with information from FourSquare will provide you with a route and destinations along the way. I'm getting psyched for some fun stops between New York and Billings, including Hershey Park, PA; Cedar Point, OH; and Chippewa Falls, WI; and much more.
Using the Destination Anywhere road trip tool also means you can enter to win a 7-day vacation at one of 1,800 resort destinations, a set of 4 Firestone tires, or a $500 Firestone Visa Prepaid Card (you can enter once daily to increase your chances).
Your ultimate road trip may not be quite as ambitious as the New York to Montana trip I'm considering, but here at Budget Travel we've always promoted Great American Drives, and over the years our readers have offered some incredible road trips tips. Here, some of our favorites. Happy trails!
MUSIC. Create a "road trip mix" of songs—let your friends and/or family pick out favorites that you can listen to along the way. And the mix will become a memorable keepsake of the trip to be remembered long after you've unpacked your bags.
TREATS. Traveling with kids? Stop at the dollar store before your trip and load up on cheap amusements you can hand out over the course of your trip. Nothing will stop fussing or the dreaded "When will we be there" like a new plaything!
GET SMART. Audiobooks can be pricey. But Cracker Barrel restaurants lets you rent them and return them along your route. Whether it's an inspiring session of Arianna Huffington's new Thrive or a third (or fourth) listening to The Sorcerer's Stone, an audiobook, like a music mix, can become a unique and distinctive part of your journey.
GAMES. My own family loves playing the license plate game: Keep a list of every state (and Canadian province!) that you spot along the way. You'll be surprised at how quickly you spot Hawaii (considering it's thousands of miles out to sea), and how some of the lower 48 can be a little rare. We also play 20 Questions and the nonsense variation I invented, Infinite Questions, in which there are no answers, only ridiculously worded queries—intended to crack up everyone in the car—that can go on, well, at least until someone needs to make a rest stop!